|Mitt and Ann Romney|
By Mary Claire Kendall
National Journal’s Amy Walter said on ABC’s This Week that former Governor Mitt Romney will have to “defend his wealth.” Is she serious? Presidents with wealth are the norm. President George Washington (1789-1797) in today’s dollars was worth $525 million. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy were all immensely wealthy, as well.
The big push since Sarah Palin and company started squawking about it was for Romney to release his tax returns to reveal just how wealthy he is. Romney was skewered after he responded “maybe” when John King asked at the CNN debate in Charleston if he would follow his father, Governor George Romney’s example. In 1967, he released all his taxes when he was running for president, thus inaugurating the tradition of presidential candidates releasing their returns.
The press pounced saying Romney’s “maybe” showed his utter lack of preparation and possible cover-up, which is pure poppycock. Rather, it was simply a son saying I’m going to think for myself instead of moving lock-step with my father. This simple explanation apparently occurred to no one. The allegation this was a major flubbed answer was repeated ad nauseam during the news cycle after the debate.
But, bowing to reality, on Tuesday, January 24, Mitt Romney released his taxes for 2010 and 2011.
He didn’t need to do this. As the Tax History Project notes, “Individual income tax returns—including those of public figures—are private information, protected by law from unauthorized disclosure. Indeed, the Internal Revenue Service is barred from releasing any taxpayer information whatsoever, except to authorized agencies and individuals.”
JFK clung to this right. But, last I checked he was not being denounced in history books as a greedy capitalist.
Of course, the reason Washington and TR could not release their tax returns is that there were no income taxes. Until the 16th amendment passed in 1916, enabling this pernicious tax on precious income, two-thirds of federal revenue was derived from the alcohol tax. The income tax was a sop to the prohibition lobby in order to banish alcohol from the land. The rest of the federal pie was garnered from tariffs, which successfully protected American industry and thereby our economy and work ethic.
But, Romney waved his right. And, what did his returns show? He paid more taxes than he owed. Furthermore, when factoring in his charitable contributions, he gave away about 40% of his income.
To suggest his reticence to release his tax returns is proof he’s hiding something is, therefore, also pure poppycock. Rather, it shows his class and sensitivity to the feelings of others in these tough times when many can’t afford new clothing but only a patch to fix their old clothing. But then, the essence of wealth is what you hold in your heart not your bank account, which countless souls, who are not so materially blessed as the Romneys, know—in spades. Still, Romney’s reticence to flaunt his wealth is laudable.
The irony is that Romney’s own true wealth lies in his desire to make life better for his fellow Americans by turning around the disastrous Obama economy—the worst since the Great Depression. Obama, for his part, disregards Americans’ feelings as he goes about spending lavishly on himself and his re-election campaign with taxpayer money—including unnecessary million-dollar-plus trips on Air Force One to swing states—acting as cool as a cucumber except when excoriating Republicans.
Obama’s crooning provides more alleviation of pain than his policies. But, President Romney will know the right levers to pull on Day One in January 2013 to start ameliorating the suffering of Americans—by singing the right policy tune when, once again, to quote President Calvin Coolidge, “the business of America (will be) business.”
Yet, Romney still doesn’t cut it for some. For instance, Doris Kearns Goodwin asserted on Meet the Press that all wealthy presidents had some life experience that enabled them to relate to the sufferings of ordinary people. TR lost his wife and mother the same day—Valentine’s Day 1884. FDR had polio. And, JFK was Captain of PT 109 in World War II. Not so Romney.
What she conveniently overlooks is that when presented with one of the greatest challenges a man can face—his wife Ann’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 1998 and later breast cancer—Mitt Romney was precisely in the tradition she points to. Indeed, the compassionate way he handled this crisis in his life shows his greatest wealth lies in his heart.
Update: The hue and cry over Governor Romney's comment regarding the “very poor” in the wake of his Florida landslide, overlooks the obvious. Of course, he “cares” about the “very poor.” His 10% annual tithing, much of which benefits the “very poor,” is proof of that. But, it is by focusing on the shrinking “middle class” strata, that many who are now “very poor,” will leave those ranks. For, if Romney is anything, he’s focused.